VICTORIA KAZARIAN – How I Went from Baking in Real Life to Baking in Books

Victoria Kazarian writes The Laughing Loaf Bakery Mysteries, a culinary cozy mystery series set in the redwoods of the Santa Cruz Mountains in Northern California. For two years, she owned a bakery of her own called The Laughing Loaf, baking homestyle, artisanal, and French levain breads. Based in Silicon Valley, she also writes a police procedural series, Silicon Valley Murder.

What got you into baking? For years, I wrote for the high tech world—first as a tech writer, producing user manuals for a software company, then I moved on to writing marketing and advertising for software and high-tech companies. What eventually drove me crazy was the fact that I was writing about something that was not tangible. You can tap away on a computer and see what software does on a screen, but you can’t hold, touch, taste, or smell software.

When I was growing up, my father baked bread for fun. I loved watching him–seeing the bread go from a lump of dough to the beautifully domed browned loaf you pull out of the oven. Bread smells like happiness. After I left high tech, I started baking at home. I dreamed of doing it as a job.

Why did you quit your bakery business? Before I first started The Laughing Loaf in 2013, I went to a great organization in Santa Clara County called SCORE, which advises new business owners. I was assigned a couple of retired businessmen who asked me detailed questions and wanted to see my business plan. They quickly pinpointed my downfall—distribution. I had no cost-effective way to get bread into people’s hands. I delivered most of my orders myself. This personal delivery fed my soul but not my bank account. I loved connecting with people. Some of my regular customers became friends. But I ended up working a grueling schedule for no profit. Eventually, I closed down the business. As if I needed another reason to stop, my husband was diagnosed with gluten intolerance around the same time.

How did you end up writing your bakery cozy series? In 2021, I published my first book, Swift Horses Racing, in my Silicon Valley Murder police procedural series. Even as I continued writing police procedurals, I wanted to use my bakery experience to write a culinary cozy mystery.

The character of Gracie Markley began to form in my head. Gracie works in tech in Seattle, but when she finds out her husband is selling defense tech secrets to foreign governments, she turns him in. Witness Protection relocates Gracie, her professor father, and her little dog Biga to a small town in the Northern California redwoods.

Burnt out by her life in tech, Gracie opens a bakery, using bread recipes she baked with her father growing up. The Laughing Loaf Bakery becomes a gathering place in the small town of River Grove, bringing people together over bread, baked goods, and coffee. She uses her tech problem-solving skills as she investigates murders that pop up in town.

I published Drop Dead Bread, the first in The Laughing Loaf Bakery Mysteries, in 2022. Each of the books includes recipes from the original Laughing Loaf Bakery. I’ve just released Sourdough and Cyanide, which includes instructions for making your own sourdough starter and sourdough loaf and recipes for using all that discard you end up with.

Will you continue with cozies? My cozy series is doing better than my police procedurals, so I’m sticking with them. I read a lot of cozies to prepare for writing this series, and I let go of some misconceptions. Cozies can have humor, but they don’t have to be silly. And the people in them don’t have to be caricatures; they can be real human beings. One value I love in cozies is community—a safe place where people support and accept each other. That, and freshly baked bread, is something everybody wants.

To contact Victoria, drop her a line at TheLaughingLoaf@gmail.com
To buy The Laughing Loaf Mysteries go to: https://a.co/d/cdSskRg
You can find out more about The Laughing Loaf Mysteries at https://a.co/d/cdSskRg and see what Victoria is up to at https://victoriakazarian.com/ She’s on Instagram at vkazarian1 and on Facebook at Victoria Kazarian, Author

4 Comments

  1. Pam

    As someone who has read all of the Laughing Loaf stories, I have wondered about your life as a baker. I’m sorry that your “soul-feeding” career didn’t work out, but glad that you turned your focus to writing. I regularly bake one of the bread recipes from your series, and can attest to your wizardry with a “lump of dough!”

    Lovely interview and fun pictures!

    Reply
  2. Robin Somers

    That’s hilarious, in a sad way—your husband’s gluten intolerance. One door closes, another opens. In your case, the oven to the book cover. Terrific interview and I love the image of your dad and your discussion of what a cozy can be.

    Reply
  3. Victoria Kazarian

    Thank you, Michael. I like that—offing someone with a baguette. Then slice it and make brushetta to get rid of the evidence…

    Reply
  4. Michael A. Black

    Nicely done, Victoria. Good luck with your writing. While I don’t bake myself, I always thought that a long loaf of French bread might make an interesting weapon in a story.

    Reply

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LAURIE STEVENS – Battles AI in Her Latest Novel

Laurie Stevens is the author of the Gabriel McRay thriller series. Her books have won twelve awards, including Kirkus Review’s “Best of” and a Random House Editors’ Book of the Month. International Thriller Writers says she’s “cracked the code” regarding writing psychological suspense, while Suspense Magazine claims she’s the “leader of the pack.”

Laurie’s short stories have appeared in many anthologies and magazines, and she co-edited the Sisters in Crime anthology Fatally Haunted. Laurie’s newest novel, THE RETURN (just released in January), pits human consciousness against artificial intelligence.

ELEVATOR PITCH: Completely reliant on automation and artificial intelligence to run their lives, human beings struggle to survive when a war destroys all the power grids across the globe. Pitting human consciousness against AI, The Return is a timely, suspenseful story of human survival, coming-of-age love, and the true power unleashed when our human hearts connect.

Do you write in more than one genre? When I completed the Gabriel McRay psychological suspense series, I thought I was strictly a crime fiction writer. Then, I began researching the tech that’s upcoming (yikes!) and got the idea for The Return, which is not only a sci-fi/fantasy but a Young Adult crossover. Quite a change!

Was it difficult to change genres? Changing genres blew me out of my comfort zone, for sure. I’m working on a psychological suspense stand-alone novel right now, and writing it feels like a visit with an old friend. That said, I really enjoyed exploring the sci-fi and fantasy elements of the new book. I never intended The Return to be YA, but my editor was once a middle-grade English teacher and said, ‘Do you realize you’ve hit all the hallmarks of a YA novel? I would recommend this to my students!”

Your Gabriel McRay novels featured a male detective, and The Return also features a young male protagonist. What’s the most challenging thing about writing characters from the opposite sex? When I first wrote the character of Gabriel McRay, I asked my husband if he hated shaving every day and other things like that, but then Gabriel sort of took over and began writing himself. A creative writing class at UCLA dissected my second book, Deep into Dusk, and most of the students enjoyed the “role reversals,” where Gabriel has a feminine side and his medical examiner girlfriend, Dr. Ming Li, has a masculine side. I swear I didn’t try to switch them up. Aiden Baylor, the protagonist from The Return, is a young man facing the challenges many young men face. Having a son made my job easier, but placing this young man in a future world created its own set of challenges. Teen crushes may never change, but how a kid 75 years from now pursues his interests is another story.

What kind of research did you do? To build a world dependent entirely on automation and tech, I spoke with tech professionals, got my subscription to Wired and other tech magazines, and read fiction books like Blake Crouch’s Upgrade and non-fiction such as The Fourth Age by Byran Reese. In the book The Digital World “Unplugs,” I had to research how people once lived off the land. I don’t mind. I am a research junkie. It’s my favorite part of the writing process.

Tell us a little about your new book. Well, you might have gathered a little info from the previous paragraph. Here’s the logline: Completely reliant on automation and artificial intelligence to manage their lives, human beings learn to survive, bond, and unlock the power of their minds when a war destroys all the power grids across the globe.

Believe it or not, I based the story on a question inspired by the biblical story of Adam and Eve and their expulsion from the Garden of Eden. Why would God kick Adam and Eve out of Eden because they gained wisdom and awareness? What’s so bad about knowledge? I explore a possible answer in this book.

Do you have any advice for new writers? An acquisitions editor from a publishing house once asked me if I had any vampire manuscripts lying around or perhaps a story about wizards at a boarding school (you can imagine about what year this took place). I said, “No, I have a manuscript about a traumatized Los Angeles male detective, and every case he works triggers a key point in his psychological recovery.” That went over like a lead balloon with this editor. My advice is, you have to make a choice. If being published means the world to you, and an editor asks if you have a vampire manuscript, go home and write one.

If the message in your heart is of utmost importance to you, write it and hope it resonates with the gatekeepers or better yet – the readers.

How do our readers contact you?
You can always see my books at https://lauriestevensbooks.com
To get in touch with me, laurie@lauriestevensbooks.com

THE RETURN is available at:
Amazon at http://tinyurl.com/The-Return-Amazon
Barnes and Noble https://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/the-return-laurie-stevens/1144524026?ean=9798223883234
Kobo https://www.kobo.com/us/en/ebook/the-return-250
Apple Books: https://books.apple.com/us/book/the-return/id6474872190
Smashwords: https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/1497892

Thanks for having me as a guest blogger. It’s been fun!
Laurie

2 Comments

  1. Michael A. Black

    Congratulations on your success, Laurie. You sound like you’ve got some great ideas and books. Your interview was an inspiration. Now I’m going to bow the dust off that unhappy vampire masquerading as a wizard at that boarding school for exceptional youths. 😉 Best of luck to you.

    Reply
  2. Marie Sutro

    Wow!! Sounds like a fantastic story!

    Reply

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2 Comments

  1. Michael A. Black

    Good interview, Lynn. It sounds like you have totally professional writing process. I’m intrigued and will give your books a look-see. Nice looking car. Good luck.

    Reply

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CHARLENE BELL DIETZ – Move Over Susan B. Anthony

Charlene Bell Dietz lives in the central mountains of New Mexico. She taught kindergarten through high school, was a school administrator, and was an adjunct instructor for the College of Santa Fe. After retirement, she traveled the United States, providing instruction for school staff and administrators. Her writing includes published articles, children’s stories, short stories, and mystery and historical novels.

Elevator Pitch: Move over Susan B. Anthony. There’s an unsung woman asking for the vote 224 years before you, and murderous rebels and bigoted gentlemen can’t prevent spinster Lady Margaret Brent from wielding her power to defend Maryland settlers from plunder and obliteration.

The Spinster, the Rebel, and the Governor by Charlene Bell Dietz – Lady Margaret Brent, compelled to right wrongs, risks her life by illegally educating English women, placing her family at risk. She fights to have a voice, yet her father and brothers exclude her from discussions. Worried the king’s men may know of her illegal activities, she flees to the New World, where she can enjoy religious tolerance and her own land, believing she will be allowed a voice. Once in Maryland, she presents cases in provincial court, where she’s hired as the first American woman attorney. Still, she uncovers perilous actions there, prompting her to build a fort to shield those within from being murdered. Can Margaret Brent’s integrity and ingenuity protect Maryland from being destroyed?

Note:  The American Bar Association honors five deserving women attorneys each year with the Margaret Brent Award. Little has been written or is known about her because she left no primary source material. My research studied the conflicts and social mores of the times and places as well as what the gentlemen of note said about her. Her 134 cases tried before Governor Calvert’s provincial court gave me insight into her personality and voice. What’s astounding is even the gentlemen of the time, 1638-1648, hired her as their attorney.

One of life’s secrets nobody ever tells you is that life is full of unintended consequences. Bet if you think back through the last few days, you’ll discover several times when you wanted to or started to do something, and along with the doing of it, it changed. Maybe slightly, maybe a whole messy lot. I started to fix a leaky faucet. With my wrench and washers in hand, ready to go, the built-up calcium deposits stopped me. Argh. I’d need to get some Blaster-penetrating catalyst. A slight change of plans isn’t a big deal, but here’s how some more serious unintended consequences turned me into a writer.

Never, ever did I want to become a writer. My chosen college classes encompassed art history and studio classes, but I needed a saleable profession. Education became my life. Then, close to retirement, I inherited my mother’s elderly sister. Our family had no other female to be a caregiver (it seems it’s always a female—guess we’re designed to do these things).

Yikes! This redoubtable woman turned the air blue with her chain smoking and language. She started drinking at noon and until she turned out the lights at night, after smoking and reading in bed. This aunt read everything quickly, always begging for more books. Her stories encouraged my husband and me to drink rum and coke with her just to hear more. She ran away from high school at age sixteen to Chicago in 1923 to become an entertainer during prohibition a Flapper in the Roaring Twenties.

When she died, she had left me holding the memories of her incredible life. I couldn’t turn my back on her stories. These were too good not to be told.

After writing a few chapters, I saw a teaser on the internet. “Send us your first page, and we’ll tell you if you have talent.” Ha! I know the scheme, but I did it anyway. Here’s the opening line of my story: “Die, old lady, please just die.”

Within minutes, a New York editor contacted me and asked to see the rest of the few chapters. A week later, he emailed me and praised my quality writing with dialogue but told me this story wouldn’t go anywhere because I didn’t have a plot. Plot? I replied, “But this happens, and then this happens, and then…”  Clearly, my ignorance showed brightly.

He responded, educating me on why that wasn’t plotting. I told him I didn’t have a clue and asked if he would teach me. He agreed. My purse became lighter, but my head became fuller. Ten years later, The Flapper, the Scientist, and the Saboteur found a publisher and went on to win a Kirkus Review’s (starred review) and be named to Kirkus Review’s Best Book of 2018. Now, there’s a huge unintended consequence.

Because this first story received so many awards, it pushed me to continue writing. Each of my stories strives for suspense and mystery. Interestingly, they all have a historical element, which requires lots and lots of research. My current work in progress is a murder mystery series set in Albuquerque in 1967. This is the year marked by the downturn in America’s educational excellence. It takes place in a fictitious high school, Duke City High, and abounds with quirky characters, a flummoxed teacher, and dead bodies. My latest book is a historical biography novel about a spinster, an English woman in 1638, The Spinster, the Rebel, and the Governor. This story tightly follows historical events, revealing how she, as a woman, accomplishes the impossible and saves precolonial Maryland from destruction.

Contact: chardietzpen@gmail.com

https://inkydancestudios.com/ or Char Bell Dietz @CharBellDietz

Purchase: http://apbooks.net/srg.html

12 Comments

  1. Charlene Bell Dietz

    Thanks, George, for hosting an interview with me. So much fun. I’m in the middle of your gang infested book, NEW LIBERTY. I swear you plucked some of the kids right out of my high school classes. You depict a way too accurate portrait of gang members and their families. Yikes!

    Reply
  2. Peg Roche

    Loved hearing your story, Charlene, and that you took the time to hear the stories your aunt had to tell over rum and cokes and cigarette smoke! Good luck!

    Reply
    • Charlene Bell Dietz

      Peg, the rum and cokes sure beat the smoke. Ugh. However, it seemed to be time well spent, and my aunt totally enjoyed recounting her quirky past.
      Thank you for your comments.
      Best!

      Reply
  3. Donnell Ann Bell

    Loved The Flapper, the Scientist, and the Saboteur, can’t wait to read your latest, Charlene, off to purchase! I remember reading the queries for it and was intrigued even then.

    Reply
    • Charlene Bell Dietz

      Hi Donnell!

      Oh, I’m so behind on my stack of books to be read, and I keep finding more to add. Guess that’s our life. I’ve certainly enjoyed your mysteries. Excellent reads just before bed–ha-ha.
      Happy writing, and thanks for commenting.

      Reply
  4. Charlene Bell Dietz

    Oh, Michael–that opening line got me into a whole lot of trouble with my critique group. They argued that I just could not dare to start a book with such a mean, shameful thought.
    Convinced, I redid the beginning and this story went NO WHERE. My husband said, “Put it back in. That’s what caught the NY editor’s eye, right?” I put it back, and then the magic happened. Thank you for your comments about how I started writing. I have a tendency to jump up to my neck in stuff I know nothing about. I started bee keeping two years ago. Yikes! What an education. However, writing and bee keeping makes my heart sing.

    Happy writing to you!

    Reply
  5. Marie Sutro

    Thank you for sharing your story, as well as Margaret Brent’s!! Just bought the The Spinster, The Rebel, and the Governor and can’t wait to read it!!

    Reply
    • Charlene Bell Dietz

      Wow! Thank you so much, Marie. I’d love to meet and talk with you. I’m always so curious as to how readers respond to my writing. Even more so with this story. I learned so much, and I wonder if my readers learn too.

      Again, I really appreciate your reading my book!

      Reply
  6. Alfred J. Garrotto

    Thanks for sharing your initial writing experience and your humility. A self-centered writer would’ve said, “My writing is just fine. Ask any of my closest friends and they’ll tell you.”

    Reply
    • Charlene Bell Dietz

      Well, you just made me giggle. Alfred, I have found that I can use all the help I can get. After learning how to plot that editor also gave me other insights for writing with excellence,. I am quite lucky to have been opened minded for this help. Currently, I judge hundreds of books for contests, and I feel so joyful when I discover well-written stories. When I come upon one that “isn’t there yet” it’s all I can do to keep from contacting the author and saying, “This is what’s preventing your book from shining. Try doing such and such.” Sigh. That would get me into forbidden territory, I fear. Thank you for your comments.

      Reply
  7. Michael A. Black

    That’s one hell of an opening line. Your story of how you got started writing is like a novel itself. Good luck to you.

    Reply
    • Charlene Bell Dietz

      Michael, thank you! Just submitted a reply, but then it disappeared. Here goes another. That opening line created a whole bunch of trouble for me. My critique group argued with me about how I could not start a story with such a mean, unsympathetic first line. Hmmm. Finally, I got rid of it and started submitting it to agents and editors. It went NO WHERE. My husband reminded me it was that first line that grabbed the attention of the NY editor. It stood again as the opening line of the book, and bingo! The magic happened. I do have a tendency to jump into things I know nothing about–like last year I started bee keeping. Yikes! So much work, and what an education–but now writing and bees make my heart sing. I really appreciate your comments.

      Reply

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MARY SEIFERT – Mixes Math & Logic into Fiction

A former math teacher, Mary ties numbers and logic to her Katie and Maverick Mysteries, peppered with intricate puzzles, a bit of history, a geocache, and a tasty cocktail recipe. When she’s not writing, she’s making incredible memories with family and friends, walking her dog, whose only speed is faster, carefully deleting reference to murder from her web browser, and pretending to cook. You can find her nibbling chocolate and sipping wine, both of which sometimes occur while she is writing and reading.

RECENT RELEASE-CREEPS, CACHE & CORPSES – March 7, 2024

ELEVATOR PITCH: When Katie’s spring break plans for a romantic getaway with her beau fall apart, and she skips the chance to go skiing with her dad and the sister she’s very recently met, she and Maverick accompany a group of friends attending the memorial service for a student’s mother. However, it is spring break, so there will also be salon treatments, shopping, and sightseeing. But, from the moment they arrive, tension fills the air as the oddball innkeeper and her nephew appear to be harboring secrets.

Katie and her friends are in town less than 24 hours when, during a geocache outing, Katie and her students discover a dead body concealed in a remote area of a county park. Unfortunately, the victim just happens to be one of the few people in town they’ve already met, and Katie’s group is getting the side-eye from the local cops.

The suspects are numerous, and the motives tricky, but Katie and those close to her are shocked when the sheriff leaps ahead to arrest one of their own. How can Katie find enough evidence to convince him otherwise, especially when she’s been warned to leave it to the professionals—many times?

NEW PROJECT FOR EARLY SUMMER RELEASE: Katie Wilk tries to reconcile her definition of family with her new reality, a half-sister she never knew she had. Caught in the frenzy of end-of-the-school-year activities, it’s easy to avoid her half-sister until she’s accused of murder, and Katie knows she can’t let anything get in the way of their future relationship, whatever that may look like.

Where do you write? What, if any, distractions do you allow? I write in our sunroom with my dog cuddled at my feet, a cup of black tea at my right hand, the laptop in front of me, and lots of room to pace. I’ve learned I work best in quiet, so I’ve settled on early morning when silence is golden in my house. Later in the day, everything breaks loose.

Who’s your favorite author? My favorite author changes every time I finish a new book. However, I am and will forever be a fan of Agatha Christie, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, Isaac Asimov, Charles Dickens, Nancy Drew, and Ellery Queen. Of course, then there are the children’s authors….

How long did it take you to write your first book? It wasn’t the writing of the first book that took so long but the rewriting. And it took seven more years to get my great publisher.

How do you come up with character names? I have used familiar names for ALL the good guys–the names of my children, my husband, my friends, and my extended family. I take more time with the antagonists because I don’t want anyone to say, “What do you have in for….?” but sometimes I reread the mug my friend gave me and chuckle. “Please do not annoy the writer. She may put you in a book and kill you.”

Do you have subplots? If so, how do you weave them into the novel’s arc? I hope all my books contain two complete stories. There is the crime itself that needs to be solved, but because Katie is a high school teacher and club adviser, there are difficulties she helps her students survive as well.

How do you raise the stakes for your protagonist—for the antagonist? Posing problems–math, geocache, social, puzzles–to Katie Wilk is one way I raise the stakes for her. Katie was trained in encryption as a Mathematical Cryptanalyst, and all of my stories include a code of sorts, the solution of which adds an unexpected hurdle to the path of my egotistical (I am so bright, no one can catch on to my clues) antagonist. Of course, so far, my crimes have included a corpse and someone close to Katie accused of the crime, so there’s always that at stake for Katie.

What kind of research do you do? I love research and can get lost down the rabbit hole for days. I talk to professionals in the areas of expertise that might show up in my story now or later. I’ve taken a class with a gun instructor and a fabric artist, talked to pharmacists, a church curator, realtors, surgeons, lawyers, a police officer, a pathologist, an ER doctor, ice fisherpeople, a dog trainer (essentially a dog-whisperer who can make a dog do almost anything), therapy dog volunteers, and Search-and-Rescue evaluators. We finesse the cocktail recipes at the back of my books with multiple taste tests and — ooops. I’m spiraling out of control.

Where do you place your settings—real or fictional locations? My stories take place in outstate Minnesota. I love history and attend seminars in our local area. At one such event, I learned that in 1872, the governmental powers decided they couldn’t afford to build and support all the county seats WAY OUTWEST, so they merged Monongalia with Kandiyohi Counties. Monongalia’s county seat would have been Columbia. Plaque markers still exist. Most of my stories take place in a NOW fictional Columbia, MN, the county seat of Monongalia County. Still, I can use my local landmarks and familiar geography to color my stories. However, one of my stories has taken place in my real hometown – another location I know and love. Therefore, the answer to the question is a resounding YES – real and fictional.

Looking to the future, what’s in store for you? With Book 8, which will be released in early summer, Katie and Maverick are destined to discover more bodies and solve more crimes.

Do you have any advice for new writers? My advice is to never give up doing what you love to do.

How do our readers contact you? maryseifertauthor@gmail.com
LINK to AMAZON: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B0B2N876FZ
LINK to Barnes and Noble: https://www.barnesandnoble.com/s/Mary%20seifert
LINK to KOBO: https://www.kobo.com/us/en/search?query=mary+seifert&fclanguages=en.
GROUPS
Facebook
Katie and Maverick Cozy Mysteries
Sisters in Crime
Mystery Writers of America
LINKS
Webpage: www.maryseifertauthor.com
Facebook: Katie and Maverick Cozy Mysteries
Instagram: maryseifertauthor
TikTok: maryseifertauthor
LinkedIn: Mary KG Seifert
X: @mary_seifert
Email: maryseifertcozies@gmail.com

6 Comments

  1. Pamela Ruth Meyer

    This was an inspirational post, George and Mary. Once again, it is proof that a few good ideas, hard work, and determination are the best ingredients for getting us where we want to go.

    Reply
    • Mary

      Thanks so much and it was such fun. We do what we love with the daily grind – light roast for me.

      Reply
      • George Cramer

        Mary,

        Thanks for your unforgettable post and advice. I agree with all except light roast. It’s medium or nothing for me.

        Reply
        • Mary

          🙂
          (sometimes I wish I drank coffee!)

          Reply
  2. Michael A. Black

    It sounds like you’ve got a winning formula: Interesting Ideas + Mary Seifert = X. Since I was never that good at math, I’ll solve it for you by saying that X = Great Writing. Best of luck to you.

    Reply
    • Mary

      Michael, that was ingenious. Thank you most sincerely! Obviously your math skills are much better than you give yourself credit for.
      Best always,
      Mary

      Reply

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PAULA F. WINSKYE – Writer of Mysteries

Paula F. (Pfeiffer) Winskye, a North Dakota native, began writing stories about horses at age 12. More than 30 years later, in 2003, she published her first novel. Poachers in the Park is her 26th and second book for younger readers.

Winskye has also penned twelve Tony Wagner mysteries, three Randy McKay mysteries, two Lunar Enforcement science fiction mysteries, three romances, and four volumes of the Collins family saga.

Winskye and her husband, John, live near Snowflake, Arizona, where she is a Navajo County Sheriff’s Auxiliary Volunteer.

“Some of my earliest memories are of laying awake, thinking up new plots to my favorite cartoons. I was a writer even before I could write.

Genres: Though I have published other genres, I now only write mysteries. My protagonists are straight arrows. They are flawed but strive to do the right thing.

Locations: Most of my locations are real, with a few exceptions. Tony Wagner’s hometown is fictional. And, if one of my protagonists is dealing with corrupt or incompetent law enforcement, I will set that in a fictional town. I won’t disparage real law enforcement agencies.

Current project: My current project is Tony Wagner mystery 13. The first, The Reverend Finds His Calling, reached number six on Amazon for serial killer mysteries. Why “The Reverend?” In that book, Tony is a seminary student who gets drawn into the hunt for the National Park serial killer. Though he decides to go into law enforcement, people still call him “reverend.”

Tony is by far my most popular character. Fans are always looking for the next in the series. Tony has been compared favorably to C.J. Box’s Joe Picket.

When I finish the first draft of this novel, I’ll set it aside and begin working on my fourth Randy McKay mystery. Tony will make an appearance there, too. This is the second crossover featuring both characters.

Outline or not: I also have the plots for Lunar Enforcement number three and the second mystery for younger readers. I am a pantser. Fortunately, my brain can store detailed plots for several novels, even some dialog. I have a notebook where I sometimes write the general idea for a story but never an outline.

Challenges to writing: Life is the biggest challenge I face in my writing career. I stepped away from some of my responsibilities to give me more time. I’m a morning writer. The earlier I can get to work on my story, the more I accomplish. If I have to leave home early, I may not get any writing done that day.

Writing advice: I used to deal with writer’s block by working on another project. Now, it isn’t a problem because I’m not afraid to write badly. If I push through that tough spot, writing a scene I consider not so good, it can be revised. You can’t edit a blank page.

That is one of the best pieces of advice I give to beginning writers. Don’t be afraid to write badly. Perfectionism is the enemy of the first draft. A bad first draft is better than only a perfect first page.

Other advice. Jot ideas when they come to you. Use waiting time (before appointments, waiting for the kids) to take notes. If you don’t have an idea for your novel, use writing prompts or free write. Don’t just talk about writing. Write.

Join a writers’ group. If there isn’t one in your area, start one. Put up signs at the local library or bookstore to recruit others. Use local social media.

Organizations: I belong to Sisters in Crime and its Tucson chapter. It has given me opportunities which I never would have had otherwise. I recently joined the Arizona Professional Writers and look forward to working within that organization.

Promotion: For those of you who are published authors, you are your book’s best advocate. As writers, getting out and talking to the public is usually not our thing. It wasn’t mine.

From the time I published my first novel, I knew that I would have to be the one to sell it. Even getting your books into bookstores involves salesmanship skills. I signed up to sell my books at craft shows, fairs, and swap meets. My best venues are book or arts festivals. Still, after consistently attending other events for years, people look for my latest novel.

I recently heard two speakers giving separate presentations offering the same advice. “The best advertisement for your first book is your second book.” I couldn’t agree more.

My goal for the next year is to sell on a broader scale, specifically to expand my internet sales. My books are available on Amazon. I’m starting to branch out to other sites and expand my advertising.

I believe that if more people try one of my novels, many will be back for more. For that reason, the e-book edition of The Reverend Finds His Calling is free on Smashwords, Kobo, and Amazon.

website– Author Paula F. Winskye (winskyebooks.com)

FB page– Facebook

 

 

 

6 Comments

  1. Mary

    Nicely done, Paula. Thank you for sharing.

    Reply
  2. Michael A. Black

    Paula, this was a delightful post. Thanks for all the great writing advice, and I appreciate your respect for law enforcement. You sound like you’ve got a great writing process. I hope you’ll consider joining the PSWA (Pubic Safety Writers Association). You’d fit right in. Best of luck to you and the Reverend.

    Reply
  3. Pamela Ruth Meyer

    Paula, you had me at “laying awake, thinking up new plots to my favorite cartoons.” That’s hysterical and sweet and magical, all in one. Best of luck with POACHERS IN THE PARK.

    Reply

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